Embracing Digital Tools in Traditional Arts Leads to Thriving Design Business
Like most new college graduates, Jared Flood was paying the bills with a 9-5 job that had no relation with his degree within his field, which was photography, and 2D design. He was living in New York after leaving his home of Tacoma, Wash. in search of the art and urban environment he’d fallen in love with after a semester in Rome. Not only was 9-5 life not suiting him, but as a transplant, he had yet to establish a set of friends. In his downtime from work, Flood picked up knitting needles and yarn and started reading knitting blogs.
Using a Pen Tablet to Paint with Light
He soon began his own knitting blog, Brooklyn Tweed, where he photographed the hand knit garments he was creating. The photographs were in themselves works of art, with careful attention paid to light and styling. Flood used a Wacom Intuos pen tablet in the post-production process to create his signature photographs of his hand knits. “When I’m processing a photograph, I use a tablet to paint with light. The pressure-sensitivity leads to a more nuanced work,” said Flood. “The tablet is more intuitive.” His photographs resonated with the knitting community and soon he was noticed by Interweave Knits, one of the largest knitting magazines who asked him to design patterns for their company.
“I had never designed a pattern before, but I liked the idea of doing something uncomfortable,” said Flood.
The sweater and hat design he created was a hit with knitters all over the world and led to a significant increase in traffic to his blog as well as offers from other knitting publications. Flood quickly realized that designing knitting patterns for other publishers wasn’t a solid business model for him to move out of the 9-5 job and into pursuing creative jobs that challenged him. Despite his exposure in the knitting industry, Flood decided to return to school to complete an MFA in 2D Media and Design. Meanwhile he continued developing his own hand knit patterns and photographed his creations for his ever-growing fan base.
As his success grew, more publications requested patterns from him, but Flood knew it wasn’t sustainable. He focused on Ravelry, a community website for knitters and those who crochet. “Ravelry’s model allowed me to distribute my patterns to knitters directly.” This allowed Flood to make more money on his designs and to retain control over the look and feel of his work. With the increased demand for his work, Flood began to hire a staff and started working on his own line of yarn.
The Intersection of Creativity, Naiveté and Business
“I thought maybe I could design a yarn from the bottom to the top. I would develop the colors and source the fiber from the US. Naiveté can bring positive things to the table,” said Flood. He began researching American-made wool and discovered that most yarn companies source their yarn from other countries and often let third-parties select the colors for the season.
Flood then began searching for mills in the US that processed yarn. “There were only a few left,” he said. He soon began sourcing yarn from Wyoming-grown sheep and enlisted a mill in Harrisville New Hampshire to create the finished yarn. Flood worked with the mill to design colors that would suit his creative vision and began designing patterns for the new yarn.
“My strength and passion are on the creative side. But there’s a business side as well that I’m required to focus on if I want to keep my job.”
Expanding Tablet Use to Improve Workflow
As his business expanded, Flood wanted to improve his workflow and the ways in which he could work more efficiently. “I had been working with the tablet for my photography, but I started using it for sketching too. The motions I used felt very natural.” The sketches would sometimes lead to garments Flood would knit.
Flood also produces the technical illustrations for the knitting patterns, which requires great care and detail. Until recently, Flood used a mouse for his technical illustrations. “With the mouse and a stylus I was picking up and putting down the tool to type. With the touch capabilities of the tablet, I realized I could remove the tool all together and just use touch.” Eliminating the mouse and the stylus allowed him to speed up his workflow.
Making the switch to tablet use for not only his photography, but soft illustration and technical illustration took a bit of time. “I went through the process of integrating a tablet three times. Each use was slightly different, but in each case, I removed the easier method until I got used to the tablet.”
Now that he’s working with a tablet full-time, he sees an improvement in his work and the way he feels. “My work is better because sketching with a tablet gives me the feeling of the hand. It is also more comfortable from an ergonomic standpoint.”
Flood’s business Brooklyn Tweed, now employs six people and Flood oversees not only pattern creation and development, but also a thriving yarn company. “Technology is the only reason this business has survived,” he said.
Despite the first years of struggling in New York, Flood remained true to his vision for a creative business. This vision for beautiful design and his business acumen led to the success Brooklyn Tweed. His advice to other creative people longing to feel the freedom of doing something on their own is to “treat it as a business. Create a system of organization that allows you to do the things you want to do and take on the risks and fears that come along with doing your own thing.”